African Images carries fascinating artifacts from all over Africa: mosaic murals of Nelson Mandela, chickens made from plastic shopping bags, antique tribal footstools and headrests from Ghana, Ethiopian Coptic crosses and brightly printed fabrics.
Cecile & Boyd Showroom
The designers who became famous for their interiors at Singita have a showroom in Cape Town that is located in an historic Arts and Crafts house in Tamboerskloof. Its rooms are filled with the global treasures, furniture, lighting, accessories and the fabulous flamboyant touches that have wowed guests at the five-star Singita properties. Open 9-5 Monday to Friday and 9 –1 on Saturdays
Clementina Ceramics has a wonderful and ever-changing selection of artisan work and pottery, some of it by the owner, well-known Cape Town artist Clementina van der Walt. This includes dinnerware and more decorative pieces as well as interesting art. There's also has an outpost at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock which carries work by Clementina van der Walt and other South African ceramists.
This pottery gallery in the Biscuit Mill exhibits the distinctive clay work of South African artists. Imiso means “tomorrow” in Xhosa and was founded by Andile Dyalvane and Zizipho Poswa. Behind the exposition space, which features sculptural objects as well as tableware lines, is a studio where you will find artists at work in clay, so you can witness wares being fashioned. Among our favorite lines is the handpinched collection by Poswa.
Merchants on Long
Set in a handsome 1896 Victorian building on Long St., this gorgeous store from taste maven Hanneli Rupert sells crafts, clothing, jewelry and homeware produced by artisans and small business people across Africa. Pick up anything from perfumes to bead bracelets to weave baskets, and marvel at the tusks, taxidermy and other quirky décor.
The colorful intricately beaded dolls made by women from local townships have already arrived in New York and London, where they cost a lot more than they do at their headquarters in Cape Town's Bo-Kaap neighborhood. The work is truly beautiful, and the organization helps the women and their families emerge from poverty and become skilled craftspeople.
This beloved South African textile company is the brainchild of Stuart Holding, who started weaving on antique looms as more of a lark than a business endeavor. He considered his workshop or barn a “working weaving museum” when he first started out, and 30 years later, he now has a mill, employs 60 people and has shops in three cities. As sustainability, social responsibility and quality are key to the brand, each shop contains looms so visitors can see how the products are made, and the team is eager to share the company story. The lightweight blankets and beach towels are favorite items.
If you only have time for one shopping excursion, make it the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill on a Saturday morning. The market, on a rather insalubrious stretch of industrial properties, has become a weekly ritual for many Capetonians. Go early and eat breakfast at a communal table at the bustling market, which sells fruit and vegetables, artisanal vinegars and honey, pancakes and coffee, nuts, seeds and pestos. Try to resist loading yourself down with goods (or not; I managed to bring a bottle of fynbos vinegar and a jar of ginger honey back in my suitcase—both supremely impractical), then head to the shops in the refurbished Old Biscuit Mill complex. Stop first at Heartworks; it has an irresistible collection of local ceramics and crafts.
This wire-sculpture cooperative showcases a South African craft form often seen on the streets; if you like haggling, buy a beaded chameleon or an adorable SAA aircraft from a street vendor. But at Streetwires, you can see artisans making the objects, which can range from key rings to chandeliers, and there’s no pressure to buy.
African crafts and souvenirs are hawked on every corner of the city; for something more unique and inspired, head to Collections on buzzing Long Street. The airy, two-level boutique carries a well-edited collection of African collectibles sourced from around the continent; expect handmade furniture, Carrol Boyes tableware, porcupine-quill lampshades, contemporary jewelry and original art. This boutique owned by Milene Rust carries a vast selection of African made products ranging from beaded Xhosa jewelry and rare ivory ornaments to contemporary animal-focused ceramic and bar ware collections. Rust has been sourcing African tribal crafts for more than twenty years and works with private clients to source everything from antique textiles and beadwork to tribal weapons.
Run by the brother of the owner of Tribal Collections just up Long Street, Tribal Trends is a dramatic boutique that sells great African furniture, housewares and accessories. Huge carved wooden tables groan under with painted masks, shell or glass jewelry and ornamental weapons. There are lamps fashioned from antelope horns, zebra skin carpets, lampshades made of feathers and ceremonial headdresses on stands. The owner has a great flair for set design and groupings of color so be sure to explore all of the rooms in the back as well. For lovers of authentic African tribal pieces, this is a great shop.
At the V&A Waterfront, bypass the cookie-cutter shopping center brimming with international mall staples and head instead for this covered market. It's a maze of stalls featuring wares by burgeoning local designers (Pichulik jewelry; Hello Charlie ceramics), which make for high-quality gifts low on kitsch-factor.